Get our free email newsletter with just one click

I Have Been Here Before review at Palace Watford

by -

JB Priestley’s work explored territory which was quite revolutionary and this is one of his more ground-breaking efforts. He became fascinated by mind boggling theories within metaphysics, particularly those which delved into areas such as parallel universes, dual existence and the nature of time itself.

So here we have the potentially mundane setting of a quiet B&B on the Yorkshire Moors which soon transcends into a scenario which is anything but conventional. A mysterious German doctor (Gordon Langford-Rowe) turns up acting strangely, totally baffling the simple folk who run the place, played with nicely observed, subtly comic performances from Roger Bingham as the bluff, good-natured Sam and Candida Gubbins as his daughter Sally. The doctor’s behaviour grows increasingly intriguing as his initially dismissed predictions begin to come true, all part of an experiment he is conducting to prove his conclusions about the structure of existence and free will.

The other guests are pawns in this game. A married couple, the Ormunds, are having relationship difficulties, a situation which is dramatically complicated when the young wife, played in the required skittish manner by Jenny Ogilvie, becomes involved, in a pre-destined way, with a rather stiff young teacher. This all emerges into a neatly tied up package which intelligently explores the concepts of deja-vu, fate and Einsteinian ideas.

It is a play which requires many words of explanation but Priestley succeeds in not making it too complicated, although it does require concentration. The performances are all fine, in the case of John Hodgkinson, as the powerful but insecure Ormund, first class. Inventive design by Patrick Connellan makes a significant contribution. Written in 1937, the quaint style of the period is evident but all this adds to the charm of an outing that is certainly worthwhile for the open-minded.

Production Information

Palace, Watford, February 24-March 19

JB Priestley
Jeremy Bond
Watford Palace
Roger Bingham, Candida Gubbins, John Hodgkinson, Gordon Langford-Rowe, Jenny Ogilvie, Adam Smethhurst
Running time
2hrs 15mins

We need your help…

When you subscribe to The Stage, you’re investing in our journalism. And our journalism is invested in supporting theatre and the performing arts.

The Stage is a family business, operated by the same family since we were founded in 1880. We do not receive government funding. We are not owned by a large corporation. Our editorial is not dictated by ticket sales.

We are fully independent, but this means we rely on revenue from readers to survive.

Help us continue to report on great work across the UK, champion new talent and keep up our investigative journalism that holds the powerful to account. Your subscription helps ensure our journalism can continue.

Subscribers to The Stage get 10% off The Stage Tickets’ price